Web of Lies: How A Fake Spy Swindled A Billionaire

Even if true, it was a story that would have raised eyebrows: a billionaire paid a CIA veteran to conduct “off the books” paramilitary missions overseas, even as the former spy served as his personal “head of security,” according to the most recent sentencing memo filed by federal prosecutors.

But seemingly it was all a lie: the CIA backstory, the secret missions, and so much more. Now the defendant, Matthew Marshall, will likely face years of jail time when a judge sentences him this week.

Last November, Marshall had pleaded guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion as part of the case, putting to rest a small portion of the controversies surrounding the billionaire, a star venture capitalist named Michael Goguen.

At the time of his plea, prosecutors outlined the contours of Marshall’s ruse: In 2013, Goguen allegedly wired him $400,000 as part of a plan to lead assault teams on rescue missions and other escapades. He followed up with roughly $2 million over multiple additional payments, including $750,000 in 2015 “to strike Syrian Terrorist Leaders,” according to court filings.

Michael Goguen

Maggie Shannon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In reality, Marshall allegedly used the money for himself and for “loans and gifts to friends and family members.”

“He was really pulling on the hero-complex strings,” Goguen admitted to The Daily Beast last year, of his relationship with the supposed spy.

A sentencing memorandum submitted by prosecutors this week offered other details on Marshall’s alleged web of lies.

The government claimed that Marshall sent Goguen prayer beads he purportedly “removed from the body of a dead terrorist,” in an attempt to bolster his CIA backstory, which he supplemented with a fake text message supposedly from longtime CIA official Cofer Black.

The memo further alleged that Marshall falsely claimed to have served in an elite “Force Reconnaissance” unit of the Marine Corps, going so far as to tattoo an insignia on himself. (In reality, he served in the Marine reserves and received an “other than honorable” discharge after accruing 82 absences.)

Those details were only the start. Prosecutors said that Marshall sent himself fake messages implying that a CIA agent “in the movie Sicario 2 was based on him.” And when his scheme went south, he again created phone numbers and sent himself pretend messages from neurologists at the Mayo Clinic attesting to a “life-threatening medical condition” he claimed to have contracted.

Marshall’s “lack of respect for the law” fit a pattern stretching back decades, the government said. According to the memorandum, when he was hired as a state police officer in Indiana in 1996, he “neglected to disclose” that he had previously resigned from a police department in the state “because he was the suspect in a residential burglary.” (It’s not clear what ultimately became of that case.)

Marshall’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Goguen said, in part, “Marshall’s crimes of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion went far beyond the mere theft of money. They demeaned the dignity of real victims of terrorism and besmirched the valiant men and women of our military and the intelligence community who risk their lives.”

In his own sentencing memo, Marshall’s attorney described him as a “51-year-old husband and father of three children who…is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a man who has dedicated his adult life to public service.”

The attorney asked for a 24-month sentence per count, to be served concurrently, substantially less than the government’s recommendation of 87 months.

“If ever there were a defendant standing before this Court who is as remorseful as he is committed to never finding himself in this situation again, it is Marshall,” the memo said.

Whatever the judge decides, it won’t fully be the end of the story. Marshall remains locked in a civil lawsuit he and three other plaintiffs filed against Goguen, which claims, among many things, that Goguen operated a “sexual entreprise” in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana, utilized “safe houses” to conduct illicit activity, and tried to have his enemies murdered.

Goguen’s spokesperson called the case “a sham civil suit,” claiming Marshall is “using the legal process to peddle his false slander to tabloids.” And indeed, some of the claims made in the lawsuit were not substantiated.

Goguen’s extramarital affairs and occasional desire for secrecy in his business dealings are well-documented, however, as The Daily Beast outlined in an extensive investigation in December.


Hippo Sighting Report

Help us out, we really appreciate it.

Help contribute to our research, and let us know if you have seen similar situations that we may have missed. Our team will review the details you provide and add to our main list once we verify the information.

stay informed

Subscribe and get the updated Hippo List.

Get notified when we release our updated lists by email.

Make a Donation

Thank you for subscribing!

We will send you an email to confirm your details.  Welcome aboard!

Thanks for sending us your report.

We will review your information, and publish in on our list once we validate the details.